Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Half-term Holiday

Our family are enjoying the half-term holiday.  I love having the kids off school.  The weather has suddenly become more clement, and there seems to be no urgent need to do anything in particular - so we can go for long walks with the dog, or have friends around, and just let time pass. 

Until I remember that I have a blog to write, turn to it and realise that it has been three days since I wrote a post.  And also that it has been quite a few days since I wrote about anything except domestic matters.  So how is this a mental health blog, I hear you ask (I have eagle ears).

Well, it is and it isn't.  I have a diagnosis of schizophrenia, but that is something that I have recently decided to dismiss.  However, although I could say that I am better now, and leave it at that; get a job perhaps and put the whole thing behind me, in all conscience I can't do that.  Because then I would be turning my back on all those people who are still suffering from the effects of mental illness, or the effects of the diagnosis they have been given, or both.  And this would not be fair.

By standing up for what I believe in, by saying, yes I was extremely ill but now I am better, I am in a position to help others, to give them hope for their own futures.  By pointing out that the label of schizophrenia is an unscientific and nonsensical way to write off people's lives - that telling people they have a 'brain disease' that they will never recover from is wrong and cruel, I am not saying anything new or revolutionary, I am just adding my voice to thousands of others out there.  It helps though, that people can look at me and say,'Yes, she seems quite normal.  Perhaps it's true, perhaps recovery from schizophrenia is possible'.

If I was to say, well obviously there was a mistake, and I was misdiagnosed; I was not as ill as they thought I was, I am not schizophrenic and never have been, then I would be acting immorally.  I know I was extremely unwell, the diagnosis I was given was the one that fitted - but in my opinion it was wrong for all that, and not just for me but for everybody who is labelled schizophrenic.

I have stated this sort of thing before, quite frequently on this blog, but people still seem to misapprehend what I am saying, and that bothers me.  There is a school of thought - perpetuated by the medically trained, who find it hard to accept other viewpoints - that the diagnosis of schizophrenia is useful as all diagnoses are, because once the correct label for an illness is found, the correct treatment can be applied.

This is so untrue.  Perhaps it is true of a broken leg - the leg can be x-rayed, the problem clarified and a diagnosis given, the leg splinted or plastered, or whatever they do.  But a mental illness is just not quantifiable in the same way.  A state of mind does not fit into a box that can be ticked, 'This sort, or that sort'. 

And the treatments are ineffective and damaging.  There is no drug that can 'mend' schizophrenia.  The same 'anti-psychotics' - basically major tranquilisers re-named anti-psychotics for marketing purposes - are used for schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder, all sorts of nebulous conditions such as 'Schizo-affective disorder' (which seems to be to be a name for 'it could be schizophrenia or bi-polar or a bit of both').  It is really not good science.

There are no easy answers to the problems of how to recover from mental health problems.  Well, perhaps there are - rehabilitative programs such as Soteria have helped a lot of people.  For myself, recovery has occurred through the medium of the family and home.  I have found a sense of security and self-esteem through becoming absorbed in these things.  I have been immensely lucky - but this path is closed to many (partly because anti-pschotic medication prevents conception, a scandal in itself because this fact is not communicated to the people who are forced to take it, or scared into taking it because they are warned that they will otherwise become unwell). 

When I look back on my life I am grateful for everything that has happened - I have learned a lot about myself and about life.  I had some lessons that nobody would ever have enrolled for, but which I think I benefitted from.  I wouldn't change a thing.  But I do sometimes think that there could have been a quicker path to health; I am forty-three now and have only just learned to combat the anxiety that I now realise lay at the root of all my problems.  What a simple thing - if only I had tried to tackle it a long time ago.

If any of my loved ones ever became mentally unwell I would want a faster path to recovery for them - no label, no shame, just understanding, support and help to become stronger.  So this is why I am continuing to shout from the rooftops:  THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS SCHIZOPHRENIA!  NO-ONE NEEDS TO BE MENTALLY ILL FOR EVER!

And hope I don't get sectioned. 

(I am not actually shouting from the rooftops, don't worry: unlikely to get sectioned, today at least).  X.


  1. Louise,

    You wrote "anti-pschotic medication prevents conception, a scandal in itself because this fact is not communicated to the people who are forced to take it."

    I haven't heard this one before. Is this literally true or does it mean that people are told not to get pregnant while on the antipsychtic drugs? This is quite shocking. Can you supply any references that I can chase up?


  2. Hi Rossa

    I took so long replying to your comment that I couldn't publish my comment - the computer said that it must be at most 4,096 characters! So I published it as a new post above. Hope it helps. Let me know what you think - I may be deluded but I think there needs to be some research done into this.